According to the dictionary the definition of frugal is: “Avoiding unnecessary expenditure either of money or of anything else which is to be used or consumed; avoiding waste.”
Being frugal doesn’t mean depriving yourself. Instead, making smarter financial choices is all about prioritizing what is most important to you. It is creating freedom to do more of what you love, such as traveling or working less to spend time with your family. Debt is money that you pay in the future, whereas savings is the future already paid for.
Many believe that spending money to acquire material items, will bring them happiness. I will admit, I love my Jeep. But, there are other aspects of life, that bring much more happiness:
- Being healthy and getting exercise
- Feeling peace with yourself and happiness with your choices
- Financial security
- Relationships with friends and family
- Spending time in nature
- Creativity and hobbies
- Having a purpose
These items don’t require spending money. They are the simple things in life that are available at any point if wanting to pursue them. Their value doesn’t depreciate after the newness goes away. Instead, if you continue to nourish them, they continue to bring lasting happiness.
So, where to start?
- Start saving some money, even if it is just a little. Build your savings for an emergency fund or to invest. This may be hard to imagine if you feel like you are drowning in debt, I have been there. But, even $5 a paycheck can add up over the year and it is better than not having anything saved at all. “The rich invest their money and spend what is left. The poor spend their money and invest what is left.” -Jim Rohn.
- Think about what is really important to you and save for it. To me, being able to go hiking on a sunny day or traveling to a new place, brings me the most happiness. Not having to work as much in the future, so that I can spend more time doing what I love, is my motivation. This means paying off debts and saving money. This also means smarter choices with my money now, so I can have this freedom later.
- After some money has been saved, decide where the leftover money is going to go. I like Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. Even though this system has been around for a long time, many people do not know how it works. First I label different envelopes with categories of what I spend money on. If I have a budget for food of $400 a month, I put $200 cash in the food envelope on payday. Money from this envelope only goes towards food. Once it’s gone, I better get creative with recipes, until I put in the next $200 on payday. If you have money leftover in the envelope you can save it for next month and maybe even splurge a little… hello favorite Red Blend! Even though it is tempting to take money from other envelopes, you have to stay within the allotted budgets, or reevaluate your budget. The purpose of the envelopes is to create discipline. Emergencies do come up and sometimes money from the envelopes must be pooled together, but going to a concert and not having enough money in the FUN envelope for tickets, isn’t an emergency. #ThingsITellMyself. Envelopes are helpful, but really it is YOU that must control your spending habits.
Frugal living does not have to mean deprivation. Think of it like dieting. The person who starves themselves may miserable drink water and eat celery and lose fifteen pounds; later to binge on take out pizza and gain it all back. Whereas, the person who commits to a healthy lifestyle and diet may lose fifteen pounds over time, be happier and continue to lose weight or be at their best physical shape possible. Having the feeling of being deprived cannot last. Yes, there will be times when making a frugal choice, means saying no. It’s making smart choices. It is brewing coffee at home rather than going through the drive-though or having a night of cards and a bottle of wine with friends, rather than going out and spending money at an expensive restaurant. You can still have fun and enjoy life!